World Vision's Crislyn Felisilda in Nepal, where she has been supporting the Nepal Earthquake response.
Nestled in the majestic Himalayan mountains, everyone knows Nepal as the home to Mount Everest. I remember I’d been planning to visit Nepal as a tourist to enjoy the snowy peaks, learn its diverse culture and everything else it has to offer. But when the earth powerfully shook and shifted in Nepal three months ago, those plans were shaken too. I never expected that I would reach the country for a different reason.
In June, I was deployed to support World Vision’s ongoing relief response as part of the communications team. Unfortunately, I couldn’t compare what Nepal looked like before. But upon my arrival the evidence of destruction were still very raw—old buildings collapsed. Tents in the open spaces. I saw too much devastation in every corner.
Unlike the Philippines, where I come from and where most areas are flat and accessible, it’s been a challenge to reach the villages in Nepal. Since Nepal is surrounded with giant hills, you have no choice but to pass through the narrow and rough roads. It’s scary but there’s no other way to go.
In other districts you need to climb up steep mountains and cross the rivers in order to go to the villages. As you do the trek, local guides would remind you to be cautious of leopards, snakes, or tigers. Residents and children fear this too especially now that they live in tents. What’s worse is that monsoon season is up while survivors don’t have decent shelter yet.
The tremors scarred the entire region with landslides that took out roads and made communities that were hard to reach at the best of times nearly impossible to access. The second quake had devastating effects on communities already ravaged by the first one. But most of the time, as I wander around, I feel torn between the destruction and beauty of the place. Nepal, with more than 28 million people, remains majestic and beautiful even after the devastation.
At the distribution site, families use their donkeys or mules or walk at least 10 kilometres with their doko (wooden basket) to go back to their place, carrying our relief supplies. Our response team in Nepal is doing everything to keep the children and families safe from harm and help families recover in the aftermath of the earthquake.
We’ve been working in this country for more than 15 years expanding access to water and sanitation, improving livelihood, giving opportunities to women welfare’s and ensuring children’s protection and participation. I’m grateful that we have close ties with the government, local partner organizations and even the vulnerable communities themselves.
Thankfully we’ve been able to reach out to more than 132,000 survivors with programs focused on distribution of non-food items (NFIs), shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) materials, food/health and nutrition initiatives. Thirty-one child-friendly spaces were set-up and attended by over 4,000 children. So far much has been done but there’s more work to do.
We have international and local staff that work together to do the job. Due to the threat of ongoing aftershocks, some of our staff has been sleeping in tents under the stars for the past months. Yet, despite the challenges, we are so grateful for the outpouring of support from our donors that will enable us to give the survivors what they need to survive.
Nepal is already one of the poorest countries in the world but people still manage to project positive disposition in life despite the brunt of the disaster. I’m happy to see children pitching in back to school and try to regain their sense of normalcy.
After three months, survivors need to rebuild their lives by putting up stronger homes, schools, and structures. They need more opportunities to regain what was lost.
The Nepalis have made me feel that I’m not different. People that I interacted with treat me like a family. So far, I’ve never been homesick because I feel at home in Nepal. In my field visits, I’m a witness of their kindness, warmth, and hospitality. Everybody greets you warmly, “Namaste”.
In the coming months or weeks, the situation in Nepal will fade, and something else will catch the world’s attention. Just like Haiti, Syria, South Sudan, or Philippines’ previous disasters, the plight of the Nepalis may slip to the back of our minds and then maybe just become an afterthought. While there is a lot going on in the world, I hope people will not forget Nepal. The road to recovery will be a long one.
And soon, when the relief phase of the humanitarian organizations ends and a focus on longer-term recovery begins, I hope communities will be stronger and the government and other agencies will take their lead in building back better.
Let us remember the Nepalese plight. Let us continue to support their recovery, and to build resilience in their country and other countries so that when future disasters do strike, governments and local people alike are better prepared.
In few weeks more, I’ll be back in the Philippines. Thinking about it, I always feel that I barely scratch the surface of this wonderful place. I wish to learn more about their joys, their untold secrets, and their hopes and aspirations. Yet I’m more than thankful to hear how survivors built resilience to cope with the challenges. I hope I’ve touched their lives. I hope I made a difference.